explain, interpret

The Greek that is translated as “interpreted” or “explained” is translated as kulumbununa — “to take-apart-a-pile” in Chokwe. “Kulumba is ‘to stack up in a pile’, ‘to pile up’, and ‘to unstack or take from a pile’ is kulumbununa. But this is the word they use for explaining or expounding a subject, and how expressive it is. One who can expound is one who can take the great unordered pile of any truth and ‘unpile’ it, take it apart piece by piece, laying it out in order so that it can be understood.” (Source: D. B. Long in The Bible Translator 1952, p. 87ff. )

scripture

The Greek that is translated “scripture” or “scriptures” in English is translated as “God’s word which people wrote” in Guerrero Amuzgo (source: M. Larson / B. Moore in Notes on Translation February 1970, p. 1-125) and “paper writings” in Copainalá Zoque (source: B. Moore / G. Turner in Notes on Translation 1967, p. 1ff.).

While the term “Bible,” often used as a synonym, does not appear in the Bible itself, there’s an interesting translation of that word in Dehu. Missionaries had translated “Bible” as “Container of the Word” until they realized that this was also used for “penis sheath.” (Source: Clifford 1992, p. 87)

For other translations of scripture see all scripture is inspired by God and examined the scriptures.

The Road to Emmaus (icon)

Following is a contemporary Ukrainian Orthodox icon of Christ as the grapevine by Khrystyna Kvyk.

 

Orthodox Icons are not drawings or creations of imagination. They are in fact writings of things not of this world. Icons can represent our Lord Jesus Christ, the Virgin Mary, and the Saints. They can also represent the Holy Trinity, Angels, the Heavenly hosts, and even events. Orthodox icons, unlike Western pictures, change the perspective and form of the image so that it is not naturalistic. This is done so that we can look beyond appearances of the world, and instead look to the spiritual truth of the holy person or event. (Source )

complete verse (Luke 24:27)

Following are a number of back-translations of Luke 24:27:

  • Noongar: “And Jesus told them everything which the Scriptures said of him, Moses first and then all the Prophets.” (Source: Warda-Kwabba Luke-Ang)
  • Uma: “From there, Yesus explained to them all that is written in the Holy Book that foretells his body, beginning from the letter written by the prophet Musa down to all the letters of the prophets.” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
  • Yakan: “Then Isa explained to them all that is written in the holy-book about him. He started from the writings of Musa going to the writings of all the prophets.” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
  • Western Bukidnon Manobo: “And then Jesus interpreted for them all of the words of God about him, that were written in all of the prophets of God, starting from Moses long ago until the last of the prophets.” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
  • Kankanaey: “Then Jesus explained to them all that was written in the word of God concerning him beginning with the first book that Moses wrote until all that the prophets had written.” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
  • Tagbanwa: “And then Jesus explained to them all which was said in the writing which is the word of God, alluding to himself, from the things written by Moises up to what was written by all the prophets.” (Source: Tagbanwa Back Translation)

prophet

Eugene Nida wrote the following about the translation of the Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek terms that are typically translated with “prophet” in English:

“The tendency in many translations is to use ‘to foretell the future’ for ‘prophesy,’ and ‘one who foretells the future’ for ‘prophet.’ This is not always a recommended usage, particularly if such expressions denote certain special native practices of spirit contact and control. It is true, of course, that prophets of the Bible did foretell the future, but this was not always their principal function. One essential significance of the Greek word prophētēs is ‘one who speaks forth,’ principally, of course, as a forth-teller of the Divine will. A translation such as ‘spokesman for God’ may often be employed profitably.” (1947, p. 234f.)

Following is a list of (back-) translations from other languages (click or tap for details):

  • San Blas Kuna: “one who speaks the voice of God”
  • Central Pame and Vai: “interpreter for God”
  • Kaqchikel, Navajo, Yaka: “one who speaks for God”
  • Northern Grebo: “God’s town crier” (see more about this below)
  • Sapo: “God’s sent-word person”
  • Shipibo-Conibo, Ngäbere: “one who speaks God’s word”
  • Copainalá Zoque: “one who speaks-opens” (a compound meaning “one who discloses or reveals”)
  • Sierra Totonac: “one who causes them to know” (in the sense of “revealer”)
  • Batak Toba: “foreteller” (this and all the above acc. to Nida 1961, p. 7)
  • Western Bukidnon Manobo: “one who is inspired of God” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
  • Alekano: “the true man who descended from heaven” (source: Ellis Deibler in Notes on Translation June 1986, p. 36ff.)
  • Aguaruna: “teller of God’s word” (source: M. Larson / B. Moore in Notes on Translation February 1970, p. 1-125)
  • Ekari: “person who speaks under divine impulse”
  • Mandarin Chinese: 先知 xiānzhī — “one who foreknows” (or the 1946/1970 translation by Lü Zhenzhong: 神言人 shényánrén — “divine-word-man”)
  • Uab Meto: “holy spokesman” (source for this and two above: Reiling / Swellengrebel)
  • Kouya: Lagɔɔ gbʋgbanyɔ — “the one who seeks God’s affairs” (source: Saunders, p. 269)
  • Kafa: “decide for God only” (source: Loren Bliese)
  • Martu Wangka: “sit true to God’s talk” (source: Carl Gross)
  • Eastern Highland Otomi: “word passer” (source: John Beekman in Notes on Translation November 1964, p. 1-22)
  • Obolo: ebi nriran: “one with power of divine revelation” (source: Enene Enene)
  • Mairasi: nonondoai nyan: “message proclaimer” (source: Enggavoter 2004)
  • Highland Totonac: “speaker on God’s behalf”
  • Central Tarahumara: “God’s preacher” (source for this and above: Waterhouse / Parrott in Notes on Translation October 1967, p. 1ff.)
  • Coatlán Mixe: “God’s word-thrower”
  • Ayutla Mixtec: “one who talks as God’s representative”
  • Isthmus Mixe: “speaker for God” (source for this and two above: Viola Waterhouse in Notes on Translation August 1966, p. 86ff.)
  • Mezquital Otomi / Paasaal: “God’s messenger” (source: Waterhouse / Parrott in Notes on Translation October 1967, p. 1ff. and Fabian N. Dapila in The Bible Translator 2024, p. 415ff.)
  • Noongar: Warda Marridjiny or “News Traveling” (source: Warda-Kwabba Luke-Ang)
  • Kutu: mtula ndagu or “one who gives the prediction of the past and the future” (Source: Pioneer Bible Translators, project-specific translation notes in Paratext)
  • French 1985 translation by Chouraqui: inspiré or “inspired one” (“someone in whom God has breathed [Latin: in + spiro]) (source: Watson 2023, p. 45)

In Ixcatlán Mazatec a term is used that specifically includes women. (Source: Robert Bascom)

About the translation into Northern Grebo:

“In some instances these spiritual terms result from adaptations reflecting the native life and culture. Among the Northern Grebo people of Liberia, a missionary wanted some adequate term for ‘prophet,’ and she was fully aware that the native word for ‘soothsayer’ or ‘diviner’ was no equivalent for the Biblical prophet who spoke forth for God. Of course, much of what the prophets said referred to the future, and though this was an essential part of much of their ministry, it was by no means all. The right word for the Gbeapo people would have to include something which would not only mean the foretelling of important events but the proclamation of truth as God’s representative among the people. At last the right word came; it was ‘God’s town-crier.’ Every morning and evening the official representative of the chief goes through the village crying out the news, delivering the orders of the chief, and announcing important coming events. ‘God’s town-crier’ would be the official representative of God, announcing to the people God’s doings, His commands, and His pronouncements for their salvation and well-being. For the Northern Grebo people the prophet is no weird person from forgotten times; he is as real as the human, moving message of the plowman Amos, who became God’s town-crier to a calloused people.” (source: Nida 1952, p. 20)

In American Sign Language it is a person who sees into the future:


“Prophet” in American Sign Language (source )

In British Sign Language it is is translated with a sign that depicts a message coming from God to a person (the upright finger) and then being passed on to others. (Source: Anna Smith)


“Prophet” in British Sign Language (source: Christian BSL, used with permission)

See also prophesy and prophesy / prophetic frenzy.

Learn more on Bible Odyssey: How to Recognize a Biblical Prophet .

Moses

The name that is transliterated as “Moses” in English is signed in Spanish Sign Language and Polish Sign Language in accordance with the depiction of Moses in the famous statue by Michelangelo (see here ). (Source: John Elwode in The Bible Translator 2008, p. 78ff. )


“Moses” in Spanish Sign Language, source: Sociedad Bíblica de España

American Sign Language also uses the sign depicting the horns but also has a number of alternative signs (see here).

In French Sign Language, a similar sign is used, but it is interpreted as “radiance” (see below) and it culminates in a sign for “10,” signifying the 10 commandments:


“Moses” in French Sign Language (source )

The horns that are visible in Michelangelo’s statue are based on a passage in the Latin Vulgate translation (and many Catholic Bible translations that were translated through the 1950ies with that version as the source text). Jerome, the translator, had worked from a Hebrew text without the niqquds, the diacritical marks that signify the vowels in Hebrew and had interpreted the term קרו (k-r-n) in Exodus 34:29 as קֶ֫רֶן — keren “horned,” rather than קָרַו — karan “radiance” (describing the radiance of Moses’ head as he descends from Mount Sinai).

Even at the time of his translation, Jerome likely was not the only one making that decision as this article alludes to.

In Swiss-German Sign Language it is translated with a sign depicting holding a staff. This refers to a number of times where Moses’s staff is used in the context of miracles, including the parting of the sea (see Exodus 14:16), striking of the rock for water (see Exodus 17:5 and following), or the battle with Amalek (see Exodus 17:9 and following).


“Moses” in Swiss-German Sign Language, source: DSGS-Lexikon biblischer Begriffe , © CGG Schweiz

In Vietnamese (Hanoi) Sign Language it is translated with the sign that depicts the eye make up he would have worn as the adopted son of an Egyptian princess. (Source: The Vietnamese Sign Language translation team, VSLBT)


“Moses” in Vietnamese Sign Language, source: SooSL

In Estonian Sign Language Moses is depicted with a big beard. (Source: Liina Paales in Folklore 47, 2011, p. 43ff. )

See also Moses and Elijah during the Transfiguration.

Learn more on Bible Odyssey: Moses .

Honorary are / rare constructs denoting God (“explain”)

Like a number of other East Asian languages, Japanese uses a complex system of honorifics, i.e. a system where a number of different levels of politeness are expressed in language via words, word forms or grammatical constructs. These can range from addressing someone or referring to someone with contempt (very informal) to expressing the highest level of reference (as used in addressing or referring to God) or any number of levels in-between.

One way Japanese show different degree of politeness is through the usage of an honorific construction where the morphemes rare (られ) or are (され) are affixed on the verb as shown here in the widely-used Japanese Shinkaiyaku (新改訳) Bible of 2017. This is particularly done with verbs that have God as the agent to show a deep sense of reverence. Here, akas-are-ru (明かされる) or “explain” is used.

(Source: S. E. Doi, see also S. E. Doi in Journal of Translation, 18/2022, p. 37ff. )

Translation commentary on Luke 24:27

Exegesis:

arxamenos apo Mōuseōs kai apo pantōn tōn prophētōn lit. ‘beginning with Moses and proceeding to all the prophets.’

diermēneusen autois … ta peri heautou ‘he explained to them the things concerning himself.’

diermēneuō ‘to explain,’ ‘to expound.’

en pasais tais graphais ‘in all the scriptures,’ i.e. ‘in all the parts, or, books of scripture.’

Translation:

Beginning with Moses and all the prophets, or, ‘beginning with (the books of) M. and proceeding with (the books of) all the prophets,’ ‘first quoting (passages) from (the books of) M., next from (the books of) all the prophets’; cf. also on 16.29, and on “book of the prophet Isaiah” in 4.17. The phrase is sometimes better transposed to the end of the sentence.

He interpreted, or, ‘explained,’ ‘made clear, or, gave the meaning of’ (cf. Ekari), ‘expounded’ (which in Chokwe is rendered by a term literally meaning ‘to take-apart-a-pile’).

In all the scriptures the things concerning himself, or, “the passages which referred to himself in every part of the scriptures” (New English Bible), ‘what was said/written about him in all the scriptures’ (cf. Good News Translation). For the scriptures sometimes (e.g. in Bahasa Indonesia) an Arabic borrowing (lit. ‘the Book’), which amongst Muslims is a common designation of the Koran.

Quoted with permission from Reiling, J. and Swellengrebel, J.L. A Handbook on the Gospel of Luke. (UBS Handbook Series). New York: UBS, 1971. For this and other handbooks for translators see here . Make sure to also consult the Handbook on the Gospel of Mark for parallel or similar verses.